California Governor Unveils ‘Care Court’ Compelling Mental Health Treatment for Homeless
23:00 GMT 03.03.2022 (Updated: 13:28 GMT 06.08.2022)
© AP Photo / Jae C. Hong / A homeless man takes food from a trash can in Los Angeles' Skid Row area, home to the nation's largest concentration of homeless people, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. At least 10 cities have declared official states of emergency, and California declared a statewide emergency due to a hepatitis A outbreak linked to homeless encampments. Comparisons are being made to conditions more commonly seen in Third World countries.
© AP Photo / Jae C. Hong /
California Governor Gavin Newsom has unveiled a plan to allow homeless people to be ordered into to mental health treatment by trial court judges in a bid to “clean up” the streets of California’s cities.
“There’s no compassion with people with their clothes off defecating and urinating in the middle of the streets, screaming and talking to themselves,” Newsom told the San Francisco Chronicle on Wednesday. “There’s nothing appropriate about a kid and a mom going down the street trying to get to the park being accosted by people who clearly need help.”
“I’m increasingly outraged by what’s going on in the streets,” he said. “I’m disgusted with it.”
The program is called “Care Court.” It would create a new mental health-focused arm in California’s county courthouses, before which people suffering from psychotic symptoms, either due to a mental illness such as schizophrenia or due to severe drug addiction, could be brought.
According to the Chronicle, this could happen in one of three scenarios: they are suspected of a crime, an involuntary hold in a psychiatric emergency room is about to end, or a family member or outreach worker believes they cannot take care of themselves. They would be represented by a public defender; a lawyer in the US legal system employed by the court to represent clients unable to afford a lawyer. A clinical team would create a care plan in conjunction with the person and a county case manager, who would help them navigate the process.
The plan could include clinical visits, prescriptions for medication, or housing at a board-and-care facility or “halfway house.”
If the person refuses this process, then a normal criminal case would begin.
According to the San Francisco paper, the rule would not apply exclusively to homeless people, either.
The Golden State has an estimated 161,548 homeless, as of January 2020, according to the US Interagency Council on Homelessness - roughly 40% of the entire homeless population the United States.
There are many contributing factors to the rise in unhoused persons in the US and in California especially, including rising rent and other costs of living and a lack of funding for adequate care services. Deinstitutionalization, or the closing of the once-massive psychiatric hospitals that became so popular in Victorian times, has also been blamed for the rise in homeless Americans, but that process is thought to have only been a minor factor.
The San Francisco - Bay Area, in particular, is one of the nation’s most unaffordable places to live. A September 2021 report by the Bay Area Equity Atlas found that nearly half of Bay Area residents are either low income or very-low income, according to California Department of Housing and Urban Development data.
United Ways of California also noted in July that one-quarter of Bay Area residents aren’t making enough money to cover the cost of housing, food, medical care, childcare, and other essentials.
Newsom, a former mayor of San Francisco, has long postured as “tough on crime,” pledging in November of 2021 a police crackdown on “smash and grab” theft from boutique shops and pharmacies.